Hungary’s Anti-Semitic Party Gains Foothold

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BUDAPEST, Hungary - A group with fascist, anti-semitic and anti-Gypsy views has gained political prominence in Hungary for the first time since the end of World War II.

The group's political rise comes as Europe witnesses rising anti-semitism.

Swearing-In the Hungarian Guard

On October 21, 2007, hundreds of men dressed in black pants and vests with white shirts took their place in the main square in downtown Budapest.

It was a proud moment for 29-year-old Gabor Vona. He started the group known as the Hungarian Guard three months earlier with 56 members.

"I wanted to give people something to belong to, to give them an identity, to give them something they could be proud of," he said.

Some 600 people will join the group May 2, pledging to defend the nation.

"We've received more than 5,000 applications from people wanting to join, but we have yet to induct them officially in the group," Vona added.

Controversial Flag

Standing in military formation, each new member proudly wore a hat bearing the red and white striped Arpad flag.

The emblem was the same symbol used by the Hungarian Arrow Cross, a Nazi political party that helped kill Hungarian Jews at the end of World War II.

Six hundred thousand Jews were killed in Hungary-- 20,000 of them shot and dumped into the river, Danube.  Today, a memorial of shoes lines an area along the river to remember the horrific act.  

But more than 60 years after the Holocaust, the Jews in Hungary face an uncertain future.

Hungarian Jews Worry About Future

Rabbi Alfred Schoner watched the 2007 ceremony fom his home in the suburbs of Budapest.

"I am not afraid, but I know many older Hungarian Jews who survived the Holocaust or whose family members were taken and killed in Auschwitz," Schoner said. "They are afraid when they see this group."

Fast forward to April 11, 2010 -- national election day in Hungary -- when the country's ruling Socialist government was trounced by a center-right party.

"There will be a big change," Victor Orban, president of Fidesz, claimed. "The country needs this and is ready for it."

Far Right Wins Parliament Seats

But the more dramatic headline was what happened with Gabor Vona. Not only did he start the Hungarian Guard, he also started a far-right political party -- and thousands of Hungarians voted for that party, giving him a strong third-place finish.

Vona launched the Movement for a Better Hungary, or Jobbik, in 2003. CBN News spoke to him shortly after he founded the group.

"Things are getting really bad. The country is crumbling," he said then.

The global recession hit Hungary hard. Unemployment is in double digits. And there's growing frustration that life hasn't gotten better since the collapse of Communism.

Blame The Jews, Gypsy

Vona's Jobbik party seized on the national anger by blaming the Jewish and Gypsy communities for the economic downturn.

"This is a known historical formula," Schoner said. "Every time there's an economic problem, they are looking for scapegoats, someone who is responsible for the country's problems."

And it worked, giving Jobbik 47 seats in parliament-- a first for a far-right extremist party.

A leading Hungarian Jewish group said the vote was the first time that a "movement pursuing openly anti-Semitic policies had taken a step to power since the Nazi era."

In the meantime, Jobbik maintains close ties with the Hungarian Guard. The Guard was recently banned by a court, but returned under a new name.

During the election campaign Vona said he'd use the Guard's influence to police Hungary's Gypsy minority.

He has also promised to revive the disbanded national police force that deported hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews to German concentration camps.

For now, he and Jobbik party members look forward to the opening of parliament. They've told supporters that they plan on wearing their black paramilitary fatigues to the event.

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